Dearest Letty


The World War II Love Letters of Sgt. Leland Duvall
Edited by Ernie Dumas
978-1-55728-976-6 (cloth)
December 2011


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Leland Duvall was a now-and-again farm worker with a grade-school education when he received his World War II draft notice at his father’s farm near Moreland, Arkansas, in March of 1942. He departed for training in California, where he began to write to Letty Jones, a Pottsville girl he’d had a crush on for several years. From the first correspondence through the end of the war, Leland sent Letty a torrent of letters, hundreds of careful and undeniably heartfelt missives—utterly tender but never sentimental, reliably charming and gently humorous—written daily from desert sands, pup tents, hospital beds, armored cars, and bombedout buildings. That Duvall’s writing is a tour de force of wit, elegance, and erudition is all the more poignant because he was a man who was almost entirely self-taught.
The letters, discovered by Duvall’s daughter four years after his death in 2010, are here enriched by his longtime friend and colleague Ernie Dumas, who provides facts about where Duvall was and the perils he endured while penning his epistles, information that was often missing in dispatches that were necessarily censored and always guided by Duvall’s effort not to bore or worry his “dearest Letty.”
Duvall’s lively intelligence and obvious joy in writing come through on every page, joining with vividness the patina of the time and the bright shine of a timeless love affair.

Leland Duvall was a member of the 85th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron from 1942 to 1945. After the war, he pursued a career in journalism and wrote for several Arkansas newspapers, including the Arkansas Gazette.
Ernie Dumas is a columnist for the Arkansas Times and former associate editor and reporter for the Arkansas Gazette. He is the editor of The Clintons of Arkansas and cowriter with Tom Glaze of Waiting for the Cemetery Vote.